Editorial : War off the field - Friday, April 08, 2011

Battles on the sporting field entertain millions – offering a healthy means to release energy, and, in the view of some anthropologists, fulfilling a fundamental need of humans everywhere. But when wars involving sports and sporting channels are taken off the pitch; the gloves removed; the rule books torn up, things take a far uglier turn. It is this kind of underhand war that the government has opted to wage against the Jang Group by targeting the immensely popular Geo Super sports network. The channel has been pulled off air, following weeks of acrimony and, most lately, a letter from Pemra informing Geo Super that it cannot broadcast from within Pakistan. Security reasons have been cited. This is obviously ludicrous. It is hard to see what threat is posed by images of cricket matches, encounters on a football field or talk shows based around sport. It is even more absurd that a government unable to stop the suicide bombings that occur almost daily should work itself into such a tizzy over broadcasts by the country’s only sports channel.

As Geo Super has vanished from the TV screens of the millions who push at the buttons of their remotes in a vain effort to retrieve it, Pemra has denied Geo’s claims and implied a technical fault or action by Geo itself is preventing signals from reaching cable operators. We wonder who the body is trying to fool. Geo has lost millions already as a result of the victimisation of Geo Super, most notably during the Cricket World Cup. It would hardly wish to lose more revenue or act to cripple itself. Most people can already see the malevolent intentions that lie behind the move. It has been widely condemned by political parties and civil society members and an adjournment motion has been moved in the national assembly by the opposition against this attack on the media. Anger runs higher in official quarters – perhaps most notably the presidency – over the determination of the Jang Group to expose the government’s corruption and its wrongdoings. The pressures it has faced have not stopped it from pursuing its brand of daring, committed journalism. The strategy we see now of trying to strike back by targeting Geo Super will not work. Similar tactics put into play by dictators have failed in the past. If anything, the game we see being played now only further exposes the official set-up and the manner in which Pemra is being misused. People will stand by their favourite sports channel – and their power is such that Pemra and the government thugs behind it will have no choice but to retreat.

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=40542&Cat=8

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